A8 THE HAYS DAILY NEWS NATIONAL SUNDAY, JUNE 18,2006 Cattle rustlers a growing menace in rural America By SHARON COHEN ASSOCIATED PRESS PERRY, Okla. - The truck raced like a phantom down the lonesome dirt road, poking its headlights into the pre-dawn darkness and spewing blinding clouds of dust. The deputy, who was watching nearby, smelled trouble. Todd Gulp saw the mysterious truck barrel through a stop sign at 80 mph and wondered where it was rushing to at 5 a.m. The off- duty deputy gunned the engine of his unmarked green pickup in pursuit. Culp soon noticed the truck matched the description of one involved in a recent theft — and it was hauling an animal trailer. Fifteen miles later, the driver stopped on the ramp of the Cimarron Turnpike. He jumped out. The deputy was right behind him. "Stop! Sheriff's Department. Get on the ground!" Culp barked, drawing his .45-caliber pistol. But the man ran to open the back doors of the trailer, disappeared on the side and began whooping and hollering. Out stumbled a half-dozen cows and one calf. It was, authorities say, an awkward — and belated — attempt to get rid of the evidence of a crime: cattle rustling. The era of dusty stagecoaches and wagon trains is long gone but cattle thieves — the bad guys in a thousand Westerns — never quite rode off into the sunset. Rustlers are now a growing menace in some parts of rural America, striking in the dead of night and sometimes selling their haul before the rancher or farmer discovers the animals are gone. "It's a low-risk, high-reward kind of crime and people figure that out very quickly," says Joe Rector, an investigator who tools around the back roads of central Associated Press This vintage photo provided by the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, shows inspectors in 1914 examining a stolen steer on which the brands have been altered. The "Closed X" on the hip has been burned from a triangle and the V on the side has been changed to a "Slash V." Oklahoma, a Clock 9 mm pistol on his hip, caramel-colored ostrich-skin boots on his feet, a police scanner buzzing in his ear. Millions of dollars of stolen cattle have been recovered in the last two years in Oklahoma and Texas. And in Missouri, a rash of thefts totaling more than $1 million — also since 2004 — recently led the governor to create a special task force as lawmakers have called for increased penalties for the culprits. Back in the days of the Wild West, cattle thieves sometimes paid for their crimes with a rope around the neck. Now, they're more likely to get a slap on the wrist or prison if it's a repeat offense or an especially large theft. Some say rustling is on the rise because of a 25 percent increase in beef prices in the last five years. Others, though, say thieves are oblivious to market fluctuations and tend to be common criminals — some of them methamphetamine users — looking for a fast buck. "It's financial problems. It's greed. It's to support a drug habit," Rector says. "It's just because they're there." Cattle thieves are able to exploit a world of absentee owners, busy auction barns and a way of doing business that relies more on a handshake than paperwork. They usually prey on smaller ranches and farms, and can pocket thousands of dollars in no time. "It's quick, it's good money and it's not hard if you know what you're doing," says John Bradshaw, a Texas cattle investigator. "If you steal one cow worth $1,000, that pays your house payment or a car.... It may take 20 minutes .... You've got the rest of the week to do your (legitimate) job. It's a good racket." And unlike other crimes, Bradshaw says, rustlers collect full value. "If you steal a TV and sell it, you might get $30," he says. "With cattle, you're getting 100 percent what they're worth." Bradshaw has seen thefts jump since last fall, and says he's investigating cases involving about $2 million. He recently nabbed one brazen thief who'd drive around southeast Texas pastures, looking for cattle near the side of the road. The man would lure the animals into pens with feed, call the auction barn using a fake name, say he didn't have a trailer, and ask someone there to pick up the cattle. Once they were sold, he'd have the check written out to a stranger he had approached in town — usually a drug user desperate for cash who was paid off with a small cut of the illicit profits. The man tried the scam nine times, Bradshaw says, and succeeded in four instances before he was caught. Solving cattle thefts, like any other crime, takes good detective work. "You have to understand who, why, when and how," Rector says. "Nine out of 10 times, we've got no suspects." But there may be clues: footprints, tire tracks, paint chips on a tree — even the animals' DNA has been used. While modern technology helps the sleuths, other advances — everything from cell phones to gooseneck trailers — aid the crooks in making a fast getaway. "One hundred years ago, they had to herd cattle on horseback," says Larry Gray, chief investigator for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. "Now with the interstate and good trucks, you can steal a load of cattle during the night in the Houston area and be in Baton Rouge the next morning." Cattle stolen in Oklahoma, for instance, have shown up in Kansas, Missouri and Colorado. Rustlers tend to be locals, anyone from trusted ranch hands to neighbors, even the victim's kin. "You have to know how to handle animals, how to move them, how to load them, you have to have a place to dispose of them," Gray says. "It's not something a novice would try It would be hard for a city boy to do." BUMS Teacher fighting for job over topless photos online AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Until they found the topless photos, Austin High School officials considered Tamara Hoover an excellent art teacher with a knack for helping students find their creativity. Now, she's fighting for her job. The photos, which were posted on Flickr.com by her partner, depict Hoover in the shower, lifting weights, getting dressed, in bed and doing other routine activities. Hoover said Friday the photos were art and made no apologies. "I'm an artist and I'm going to participate in the arts," Hoover said. "If that's not something they want me to do, then I want to be told that. I don't feel as if I was doing anything that was beyond expectations." The school district said the photos were inappropriate and violated the "higher moral standard" expected of public school teachers. As she was escorted out of class last month she was told she's become an ineffective teacher. The district wants to revoke her teaching certification, which would keep her out of Texas classrooms permanently. Hoover will appeal the ruling and is prepared to take the case to court, she said. Hoover's abrupt dismissal highlights a new concern for employees: Your boss has Internet access, too. "People don't realize when they put their entire diary out there, they're giving very private information to the public," said Kate Brooks, director of career services for liberal arts students at the University of Texas at Austin. The photos came to light last month as a result of a feud over ceramics equipment with another art teacher, according to sworn affidavits. Students who had seen the pictures showed the teacher, who then notified school officials. 5 teens killed in New Orleans shooting NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Five people ranging in age from 16 to 19 were killed in a street shooting early Saturday, the most violent' ttritote 1 retJbttea^n'tMsi teKKtfly repopulating,city since; Hurri- , cane'Katrina'hit last August. All were believed to have been gunned down in a volley of bullets on a street in the Central City neighborhood just outside the central business district. Three of the victims were found in a sport utility vehicle rammed against a utility pole and two were found nearby on the street. Authorities said they were looking for one or more suspects but did not elaborate. Capt. John Bryson said police think the shootings were either drug-related or some type of retaliation attack. A semiautomatic weapon was used and "multiple, ' saidu • ;i>ii, ••. h .i.iy !»!.'i. .11 "I think' the motivation We're looking at is pretty obvious," he said. "Somebody wanted them dead." Bryson said he could not remember the last time this many people were killed in once incident — before or after Katrina. "I can't remember five," he said. Four of the victims — a 16- year-old, a 17-year-old and two 19-year-olds — died at the scene. Another 19-year-old, believed to be the brother of the youngest victim, died later at a hospital, ROBBEN Insurance, Inc. ANNUITIES & IRA's 416 Main Street* P.O. Box 85 Victoria KS 67671 Phone 785-735-9304 Fax 785-735-9306 1-800-597-5208 Louise Schmidtberger JUNE PRICE JUBILEE! Hearing Aid Batteries 10, 13, 312 or 675 Call 4 Pack COMPARE DURACELL Insulin Syringes 29, 30 or 31 Gauge 3/10, 1/2 or 1cc 100CI, A prescription may be required COMPARE TO BD Rembrandt & Spenco Products I/2 Price Shopped 785-628-1700 2011 Vine, Hays Mon.-Fri. 10-6 ., f ^-^- : -'>9<3> how &jtwm^pM:!iy$ ild a police said. There was no immediate word if any of the victims had been armed. Their identities were not Terrance Rayly, 23, who was •• staying in a home nearby, said he heard the shots after getting in from a music club. "It was like 15 gun shots," he said. "I heard pop, pop, pop, pop, pop." The shooting left many people feeling unsafe in the poor Cen- tral City neighborhood where people sat on porches and discussed the incident Saturday. .' "Lord, this is like the sixth •persbh'killed around' here in the last month," said Monique Jackson, a 27-year-old housekeeper who lives around the corner from the crime scene. "It's getting bad now." She added: "I don't want to ever hear about a murder ever again. It's just young people doing it to each other." Wanted - Disc Herniation Sufferers Who Want Pain Relief WITHOUT Surgery Great Bend, KS - A new report has recently been released that reveals how breakthrough medical technology is offering new hope for sciatica sufferers. 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